An Alabama jury recommended a $4 million award to a farm worker who sustained horrific mutilation from operating farm equipment.
Five years after the accident, Kendrick Farms in Conecuh County is required to pay the sum for failing to provide Gerald Lymon, the employee, adequate warning or training to operate a tractor-driven post-hole digger.
Lymon was injured while operating the equipment. According to a report from al.com, “the drill bit struck a hard piece of the ground and Lymon lost his footing, his pants became entangled in the spinning drill. The pull of the machine yanked at his clothes until his gentials were also entangled, snatching away the skin.”
Four Critical Mistakes
At Auburn University, Dr. Jesse LaPrade, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s farm safety specialist, says the ruling stemmed from what was perceived as four mistakes on the part of the farmer.
- not providing the employee with safety instructions;
- not providing safe equipment;
- not providing a user’s manual for the equipment by which the employee was injured;
- and, finally, providing instructions for operating the equipment that ran contrary to the manual instructions.
“If the farmer had merely followed these four basic safeguards, he never would have ended up in court, nor would the worker likely have been injured” LaPrade says.
“The farm owner did not call the phone number, clearly inscribed on the digging equipment, to request a copy of the operating manual,” he says, adding that attorneys subsequently involved in the lawsuit called the number, requested a copy of the manual from the manufacturer and received one a few days later.
“If the employee had been provided this manual and then requested to sign a form attesting that he had been informed of this fact, it’s likely that the farm owner may have avoided court,” LaPrade says.
Familiarity with OSHA Regs a Top Priority
One of the main priorities of farmers should be familiarizing themselves with Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements that relate to employees and to comply with them, LaPrade stresses.
LaPrade has developed a site with the sole purpose of acquainting farm owners with their responsibilities under OSHA.
“The farm safety management plan puts OSHA law into action,” he says.
The site, which can be accessed here, outlines the OSHA regulations that apply to farmers and also how to comply with these regulations.
“The site provides a check list to help producers’ identity the sites and equipment on their farm that potentially carry the most injury risk and that should form the bases for training as part of a comprehensive farm safety management plan,” LaPrade says.
Identifying All Potential Risks on the Farm
He says all identified safety risks must be corrected according to the specifications outlined in the farm safety management plan forms posted on his website.
Once a farm safety management plan is completed, farm owners and operators are required to keep all related forms on file, including copies of worker training verification forms and self-site safety inspections, which should be conducted at least twice annually, he says.
Likewise, any serious injuries that occur on the farm should be carefully documented, including steps outlining how they could have been prevented.
Under OSHA regulations, any injury that requires medical assistance and at least one lost day of work ranks as a serious injury and should be documented and permanently filed, according to LaPrade.